Worldbuilding is the creative practice of constructing a new paradigm and place. Walk through the process of worldbuilding from the perspective of a child’s imaginary world, as well as from a writer’s craft perspective - and the overlap between.
Learn the best practices for worldbuilding with narrator Shauna C. Murphy, as she speaks to the specialists pioneering this area of study; psychologists Dr. Marjorie Taylor and Dr. Keith Oatley, as well as editor Jeni Chapelle, and award-winning authors Linda Sue Park, Eliot Treichel, and Jordan Ifueko.
When I first began research for Worldbuilding in the fall of 2020, I looked into various authors and specialists who had studied the craft of worldbuilding for young audiences.
I quickly realized that any introduction to this art would be incomplete without the perspective of a child's own imaginary world.
The more I studied the worlds and characters that children created for themselves; some strange and mysterious - and others delightful and kind, I learned that these imaginary places enabled the children to become who they truly were.
Seeing a young person's perspective made me realize I had only scratched the surface to unlocking the potential of worldbuilding - the real potential lies in the unique imagination of the reader.
I've learned that the best worlds paint a larger perspective, and that perspective allows us to become who we truly are.
Dr. Keith Oatley
Dr. Keith Oatley is a cognitive psychologist and novelist. His research is on the psychology of emotions and the psychology of fiction. He is the author of seven books of psychology, including The Passionate Muse: Exploring Emotion In Stories. His research was the first to show the connection between reading and an increased empathy for other people.
Dr. Marjorie Taylor
Dr. Taylor studies the development of imagination and creativity. She has investigated children's creation of imaginary companions and pretend identities during the preschool years and the role these fantasies play in children's emotional and cognitive development. Currently, she is investigating the development of anthropomorphism, how pretend play contributes to resilience, and the relation between moral judgment and creativity. In addition, her work examines adult forms of fantasy behavior, such as the relationship between adult fiction writers and the characters they create for their novels.
Linda Sue Park
Linda Sue Park is the author of many books for young readers, including the 2002 Newberry Medal winner A Single Shard. Her Ted Talk, "Can A Children's Book Change The World?" reveals how empathy for a book's characters can lead to engagement in ways that have significant impact in the real world.
Jordan Ifueko is a young adult fantasy author, her debut novel, Raybearer, is a NYT bestseller. She teaches the craft of worldbuilding to teen writers.
Jeni Chapelle is an editor of young adult and children's books, such as Stellar Fusion and A Thousand Fires. She is the co-founder and editor for Revise & Resub, and is passionate about assisting writers with their process.
Eliot Treichel is an author of young adult contemporary fiction. He fashions real-world settings to challenge his characters' psychological growth.
WORLDBUILDING: The act of creating a world, whether fictional or real.
PARACOSM: An imaginary world, (which can have geography, maps, languages, etc.)
ILLUSION OF INDEPENDENT AGENCY: The feeling that an imagined character has a mind of their own.
FLOW: A state of thinking, where the ideas come to you without your realizing it.
SHARED ASSUMPTIONS: The assumptions a writer may share with a reader.
Editor Jeni Chapelle says that "we go to worlds that may or may not exist outside the mind of the author..." What are some of your favorite 'worlds' that exist in real life? Discuss.
Author Jordan Ifueko says, "I loved creating worlds so much, it was a way for me to process things in different situations that were larger than life." In what areas of your life have you imagined different scenarios? Has this helped you have perspective on your own life story? Discuss.
Psychologist Dr. Marjorie Taylor says that children who had imaginary worlds, when tested, tended to score higher on tasks that involved creativity and empathy. Do you think that using your imagination can help you create solutions to life's problems?
The illusion of independent agency happens when a character feels to have a mind of their own. Some people call it a state of "flow." Have you ever experienced this while creating something?
Dr. Keith Oatley suggests that these imaginary characters and places enable us to become who we truly are. Have you ever felt impacted by a creative work or story that you feel it enabled you to become who you truly were?
Narrator Shauna C. Murphy talks about applying a worldbuilding perspective to her own life story. In what ways can you see yourself as the protagonist of your own personal story? If you did, how might your life change?
Author Linda Sue Park talks about building an assumption into your story that illustrates a different world culturally. What stories have impacted you the most in sharing about a new cultural understanding? Discuss.
Who lives there? People, animals, other kinds of beings?
What does it look like there?
Is there anything from your real life or things you've read about that you'd like to be in your world, as well?
What is special about your world?
Create your own imaginary world. Use the following questions to help: